damages | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Damages refer to money that a defendant pays a plaintiff in a civil case if the plaintiff has won.

Damages may be compensatory (for loss or injury) or punitive (to punish and deter future misconduct).

Contrast with the term fine.

In civil law, damages are the monetary compensation awarded by a court to a plaintiff who has suffered harm or loss due to the actions of a defendant. Civil law deals with disputes between individuals or organizations, and the purpose of damages is to make the plaintiff whole again, to the extent possible.

There are two types of damages: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are awarded to reimburse the plaintiff for their actual losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, or property damage. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for their behavior and to deter similar behavior in the future.

The civil law system differs from the criminal law system in that civil law deals with disputes between private parties, while criminal law deals with offenses against the state. In a criminal case, the defendant can face punishment such as imprisonment or fines, while in a civil case, the defendant may be ordered to pay damages or perform some other action to remedy the harm caused.

The goal of civil law is to resolve disputes and provide a remedy to the plaintiff, while the goal of criminal law is to punish the offender and protect society. In the civil law system, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, who must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that it is more likely than not that the defendant is liable. In criminal law, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, who must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Overall, damages are an important component of the civil law system, providing compensation to those who have suffered harm or loss due to the actions of others. By awarding damages, the court seeks to make the plaintiff whole again and discourage future harmful behavior.

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Last Modified: 04/09/2023


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